We hope to have more creatively styled concept motorcycles, no matter what we call them: showcase motorcycles, concept motorcycles, future motorcycles, and so on—they have been around for a long time. Sometimes they point the way to the future, but most of the time they should be wearing a sign that says “DEAD END.” But what’s interesting is that nobody knew for sure at the time. Some models indeed never went into mass production.

 

Suzuki Falcorustyco

(1985 Suzuki Falcorustyco concept car, equipped with a square engine and a central hub steering system.)

The first unforgettable modern concept motorcycle is arguably the Suzuki Falcorustyco (Latin for gyrfalcon), which debuted at the 1985 Tokyo Motor Show. Suzuki may deny their intention to pave the way for concept motorcycles, but the resemblance between Falco and the glowing cycles in Tron (1982) seems too coincidental. At the time, Suzuki claimed it was powered by an imaginary four-stroke engine with three camshafts and featured “hydraulic drive” and hub-centered steering, all of which were “developed to an extremely advanced stage, almost ready for production.” In May 1986, Cycle World bet that “you won’t have to wait a decade to see it on the street.” In hindsight, Falco appears to be a simple corporate diversion, removing these concept models from the trail of the GSX-R. Considering the conspiracy theory that emerged earlier when the GSX-R was launched, it turned out to be a commercial trap as well. Perhaps Falcorustyco was just a way to keep troublesome engineers away from the inner workings of the GSX-R.

Suzuki Katana GSX1000

The Suzuki Katana motorcycle, which was mass-produced in the early 1980s, had a retro concept-like appearance and served as an inspiration for later designs.

Another Suzuki model introduced three years before the Falcorustyco was the 1982 GSX1000 Katana. It was designed by former BMW chief designer Hans Muth specifically for the German market, where high-speed stability and aerodynamics were of utmost importance. The Katana’s design elements were widely applied in subsequent production motorcycles, including features like the suede leather seat found in modern models.

Suzuki Nuda

Inspired by the early success, the Nuda concept was introduced in 1986 and featured a dual axle drive.

Perhaps still satisfied with the feedback received for the Falcorustyco, Suzuki brought back the Nuda for the 1986 Tokyo Motor Show. They claimed it was functional, although few actually saw its functionality. To keep it grounded, Suzuki stated that the Nuda housed a GSX-R750 engine, and then its design concept ventured into the world of tomorrow once again, talking incessantly about two-wheel axle drive, hub-centered steering, and the “Suzuki Universal Engine Control System” – a computer-controlled fuel injection system regulated by air/fuel sensors, throttle position sensors, and engine speed sensors. Regardless of the feedback at the time, all of this paid off with the introduction of the GSX1300R Hayabusa in 1999.

Just as each concept vehicle achieved success, designers obtained much of what they desired, and with dreams of steering wheels and square three-camshafts, the technical personnel embarked on new and bold ideas on paper once again.

Harley-Davidson Café Racer

Harley-Davidson made a striking impression with their advanced Café Racer concept at the 1985 Cologne Motorcycle Show.

Not to be outdone at the 1985 Cologne Motorcycle Show, Harley-Davidson took the lead once again with their Café Racer inspired by the Sportster and influenced by the Suzuki Katana. It was compatible with the new GSX-R750 and outperformed models such as the Moto Guzzi Le Mans.

Craig Witt’s KZ1000 Mysterious Ship

Craig Witt, a fairing manufacturer, built the Kawasaki “Mysterious Ship,” which was so mysterious that it never went into mass production.

Meanwhile, Craig Vetter made quite a significant impact by selling his Windjammer fairings to motorcycle riders across the United States. He began building his futuristic custom KZ1000 called the “Mysterious Ship.” Stylistically, the Mysterious Ship may have seemed like a dead-end, but Craig Vetter knew precisely the direction for motorcycle fairing design. It was now evident that wind protection and aesthetics were appealing selling points for motorcycle enthusiasts.

Bates Clipper

The Bates Clipper fairing cover, with its front cartoon-style design and added storage functionality, aimed to enhance the usability of fairings.

The Bates Clipper fairing gives your motorcycle a cartoon-like appearance and offers decent storage space. When the GL1100 Aspencade first received factory fairings in 1982, the fundamental difference was that Honda relocated the storage compartments to the rear of the motorcycle.

John Mockett’s Yamaha XS11

John Mockett’s Yamaha XS11 was a choice of British dealerships around the 1980s. However, it was a product designed by the British designer John Mockett for the new Yamaha XS11, not a specific model. The design never went into mass production.

DuPont Futur

I apologize for the confusion earlier. It appears that “Plastic” refers to the concept of a future where plastic materials play a prominent role. DuPont showcased their engineering material versions at the Chicago Engineering Exposition around 1984. The display featured a V-4 Honda engine and associated operational equipment housed under a plastic body designed by DOX.

BMW Future

The BMW Futuro, produced in 1980, featured extensive fiberglass bodywork, a luggage compartment, and a turbocharged twin-cylinder engine.

Meanwhile, in Bavaria, the 1980 BMW Futuro was powered by a turbocharged Boxer Twin engine. Its exterior bodywork and color scheme were reminiscent of classic trash can designs, although it didn’t exhibit a fully-formed appearance.

BMW K1

Perhaps the Futuro was a precursor to the futuristic product of the 1990s, the BMW K1.

Ten years after the birth of the Futuro, in 1990, the reimagined luggage-compartment design made a comeback, enveloping BMW’s inline “flying brick” engine from the K100 series, now branded as the K1 and directly competing with the Japanese super sport motorcycles. The K1 had a heavy body, slow acceleration, buzzing at idle, engine heat on the legs, and an uncomfortable riding position, lacking appeal to BMW enthusiasts. Reportedly, out of the 2,400 motorcycles sold in the United States, approximately 650 combined a love for BMW and a fascination for quirky motorcycles. Taking everything into account, it is not difficult to imagine the loyalty of present-day K1 enthusiasts.

Yamaham Mofu

Even peculiar concept motorcycles like the Yamaha Morpho from 1990 often have an influence on subsequent vehicle design.

Another intriguing motorcycle from 1990 was the Yamaha Morpho, which stole the spotlight at the Tokyo Motor Show that year. It was derived from the FZR400 and named after the colorful South American butterfly. The Morpho’s reputation lied not only in its front-wheel steering system but also in its adjustable ergonomics: its handlebars and mini fairing could be rotated up and down, and its seat and footpegs were also adjustable. Thus, the conclusion we draw is that the future will be focused on lightweight, powerful, well-suspended, and comfortable designs.

Yamaha GTS1000

Just three years after the introduction of the Morpho, the Yamaha GTS1000 was introduced as a production motorcycle in 1993, featuring a center hub steering system.

It is indeed strange to see the GTS1000 in its bulky, expensive, uncomfortable, and ergonomically unsound form receiving accolades. However, since its release, it has become a tried-and-tested front suspension design for many riders, especially with the emergence of Bimota and BMW adventurers.

Honda NR750

It’s indeed hard to believe that the 1992 Honda NR750, featuring oval pistons and valued at $60,000, was more than just a concept vehicle.

On the other hand, in 1992, Honda introduced the impressive fuel-injected NR750, which bore a striking resemblance to the prototype showcased three years earlier at the Tokyo Motor Show. In fact, the elliptical-piston V-4 at the core of the NR had been in development since 1977. Honda decided that disguising a V-8 as a four-cylinder engine was the only way to achieve parity between four-stroke and two-stroke GPs. (The FIM had announced that 500cc bikes couldn’t exceed four cylinders.) When you handcraft only three motorcycles per day (a total of 200 units) and transform “futurism” into titanium and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic, charging $60,000 per bike wasn’t difficult. Although the oval-piston NR didn’t achieve any notable success, the FIM announced in their postmortem statement that pistons would remain round.

Yamaha MT-01

As showcased at the 1999 Tokyo Expo, the Yamaha MT-01 signaled the decline of fairings.

Captured in the dark with a pair of rear-mounted rocket exhausts, it bore some resemblance to the Buell and V-Max frames. As a concept bike, it demonstrated the functionality that could be achieved by rearranging existing parts. When the production version emerged in 2005, it closely resembled the showcased motorcycle in almost all regions except the United States. With claimed torque of 150 ft-lbs at 3500 rpm, courtesy of the 1670cc Twin from the Road Star Warrior, the MT-01 seemed perfectly fitted with YZF-R1 front forks and swingarm. On the other hand, the small-batch MT did feature a bespoke cast aluminum frame, adding to its cost. For American buyers, the MT-01 remained a “showcase motorcycle,” although Yamaha has sold it in many other markets, including Canada, over the years.

Suzuki B-King

It is indeed peculiar that the B-King featured the Hayabusa engine on a minimalist motorcycle inspired by anime.

In an article discussing the stars of the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, published in February 2002, it was written, “It would only insult the air-crushing abilities of the turbocharged engine.” The Suzuki B-King added a belt-driven supercharger to the already powerful 1299cc Hayabusa four-cylinder engine to generate over 200 horsepower. A pair of massive glutei maximi exhaust pipes sat beneath 240-section thick rear tires, ensuring even the clumsiest onlookers stayed away from the blast zone of exhaust noise.

When the B-King went into production in 2006, the supercharger was nowhere to be found (you were left with a still respectable 164.8 horsepower and 99.5 ft-lbs of torque), and those massive exhaust boxes hanging under the 200mm rear tire gave the impression that weightlifters hadn’t spent enough time working out their legs.

Honda NAS Experimental

The Honda NAS 1000 concept, based on an existing street bike, was introduced in 1991 but never made it into production.

In 2001, the Honda NAS design made a splash when it appeared at the Laguna Seca World Superbike round, earning a spot on the cover of Cycle World in October 2001. It was essentially an upgraded version of the VTR1000F Super Hawk. The NAS was a great Honda that had been in production for three years by the time it made its appearance. Honda’s top-secret factory basically took one of the best street Honda engines ever made and made it significantly more uncomfortable and inexpensive compared to existing motorcycles. As for the front brake disc around the stunt area and the exhaust boxes below the engine, the NAS shared its covers with the new (production) Buell XB9R, both being standard equipment.

Honda’s design team stated that the goal of the New American Sportbike was to refocus on street riding rather than racing, which was puzzling considering that was how the Super Hawk was positioned. This machine was, and still is, an exceptional real-world sport motorcycle. Looking back, was the NAS truly Honda’s early plea for help? Can we take more precautions to prevent another DN-01?

Kawasaki ZZR-X

In 2004, Kawasaki made a stylish entry into the realm of central adjustable ergonomics design with the ZZR-X concept.

When the Kawasaki ZZR-X graced the cover of magazines in January 2004, the motorcycle industry was in full swing. Once again, they led the way with adjustable ergonomic design, this time in the form of handlebars that rotated along with the (mock) fuel tank and fairing, allowing riders to playfully or relaxingly adjust their position. The electrically adjustable leading edge of the fairing allowed for airflow modulation. As the real estate asset bubble was expanding and seemingly without end, motorcycle industry investments and sales soared to new heights in 2005. Kawasaki designers pursued buyers boldly with softer, less threatening curves that harmonized with the new seat design.

Suzuki G-Strider

Suzuki surprised with the G-Strider, a scooter-inspired motorcycle that emerged in 2003.

In 2003, money was freely flowing within the motorcycle industry. Sales were up by 7%, and scooters experienced a 22% growth, so manufacturers were willing to experiment with intriguing concepts. The Suzuki G-Strider was one of the cool crossover motorcycle/scooter models that appeared later that year at the Tokyo Motor Show. We were all getting fatter and wealthier, assuming the posture of a “relaxed person in zero gravity” in the environment.

It seems that someone at Suzuki pried open the front end of the dusty old Falcorustyco and created an entirely new futuristic vehicle behind it, powered by a parallel twin with an electronic CV transmission. What the G-Strider did right was its “next-generation remote information processing system that communicates interactively via a two-way wireless infrastructure… all controlled by a trackball suited for gloved hands.” This concept actually resembled the way all electronic devices are categorized on the thumb-operated controller of the new BMW K1600, showing that it wasn’t the first time BMW picked up some good design cues from the proletarian Suzuki.

Victory Vision 800

American manufacturer Victory showcased the parallel twin Vision 800s and the shaft-driven model in 2006.

If you know you’re going to release a radical touring bike like the Victory Vision within a year or two, what could be more radical than showcasing an even more radical concept car with the same name? The better way to prepare everyone for the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show in California was what? The 2006 Victory Vision 800 high-performance motorcycle resembled more of a city scooter, powered by an 800cc snowmobile engine.

It was a bold attempt by Victory, but touring riders tend to be a conservative bunch, and many hadn’t fully embraced the aesthetics of the Vision.

Suzuki Stratosphere

The 2005 Suzuki Stratosphere concept car combined a 180-horsepower inline-six engine with the design of the 1982 Suzuki Katana.

Drawing more inspiration from the Suzuki Katana design (which celebrated its 25th anniversary with the release of that motorcycle), it was revived at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, this time called the Suzuki Stratosphere, with the cute inline-six engine arching above. Using the cylinder dimensions/strokes of the time, Kevin Cameron suggested that an 1100cc inline-six engine could be narrower by one to two inches compared to a typical four-cylinder engine, making it easy to reach 200 horsepower for this smoothly running short-stroke engine without strain at high revs.

In 2007, Suzuki even announced that the Stratosphere would go into production at an unspecified time in the future. Shortly thereafter, the free market system collapsed. Our Suzuki spokesman claimed to have no knowledge of whether motorcycles were affected. Nevertheless, a prototype of the bike had been built and appeared in Suzuki teaser videos that can be found on YouTube (though it’s not clear what powered the motorcycle in the dark videos). Meanwhile, BMW introduced the highly acclaimed six-cylinder K 1600 touring bike, which saw significant increases in sales and profits.

Yamaha Origin

The Yamaha Gen-Ryu hybrid motorcycle, introduced in 2005, is considered cooler than the Prius and features the most radical styling ever seen.

In 2005, Yamaha introduced the Gen-Ryu as a response to the Prius, integrating the YZF-R6 engine with an electric motor. It features a lightweight aluminum frame, steam locomotive wheels, and a Buck Rogers-inspired bodywork. It is equipped with advanced safety features such as a distance warning system, rotating headlights seen on BMW K1600 models from 2012 onwards, and noise reduction systems to minimize wind noise. Additionally, the Gen-Ryu boasts features like voice-guided navigation and hands-free calling, catering to iPhone users.

In an era where motorcycle sales are not consistently booming, it is interesting to note that Suzuki, a company known for producing affordable and reliable motorcycles for the average consumer, stands out among the eccentric concepts. Meanwhile, the three major European brands—Ducati, Triumph, and BMW—have been busy creating eye-catching machines, albeit with higher costs. In fact, BMW has incorporated some features from high-performance Japanese motorcycles, such as inline-six engines and multifunctional wheel controllers for menu navigation. This cross-pollination of ideas in the motorcycle industry is intriguing as it allows brands to gain a competitive edge in the market.